Raw Thought: Chomsky Challenger One: Brad DeLong

Up: Chomsky Challenge

J. Bradford DeLong is perhaps best known as the author of Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal, one of the most popular economics and political blogs on the Internet. Even before he blogged, he maintained a website. Its article "My Allergic Reaction to Noam Chomsky" has become legendary, its sequel even receiving a response from Edward Herman. DeLong is also a professor of economics at UC Berkeley but his previous job was Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary under Clinton where, Wikipedia informs us, "on the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [and] on the North American Free Trade Agreement" and it is in this respect that his challenge comes to us.

In What Uncle Sam Really Wants, a 1993 pamphlet collecting remarks from a variety of talks given by Chomsky, Chomsky is quoted as saying:

Free trade is fine for economics departments and newspaper editorials, but nobody in the corporate world or the government takes the doctrines seriously. The parts of the US economy that are able to compete internationally are primarily the state-subsidized ones: capital-intensive agriculture (agribusiness, as it's called), high-tech industry, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, etc.

In response, DeLong writes:

As a reasonably senior member of the Clinton Treasury, I assure you that we took--and take--the doctrine of free trade very seriously indeed.

While I can't evaluate the internal mental states of the Clinton Treasury, we can all evaluate their actions. The storied achievement of the early-Clinton economic team is NAFTA which, not surprisingly, Chomsky has an article on:

[T]he North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and GATT [...] have only a limited relation to free trade. One primary U.S. objective is increased protection for "intellectual property," [...] NAFTA also includes intricate "rules of origin" requirements designed to keep foreign competitors out. Two hundred pages are devoted to rules to insure a high percentage of value added in North America (protectionist measures that should be increased, some U.S. opponents of NAFTA argue). Furthermore, the agreements go far beyond trade [...]

Or, if Chomsky is a biased source, listen to Dean Baker, in what Brad Delong called his "well-regarded new book" ("People Should Read Dean Baker's New Weblog", he adds):

For example, news reports routinely refer to bilateral trade agreements, such as NAFTA or CAFTA, as “free trade” agreements. This is in spite of the fact that one of the main purposes of these agreements is to increase patent protection in developing countries, effectively increasing the length and force of government-imposed monopolies. Whether or not increasing patent protection is desirable policy, it clearly is not “free trade.” [...] these trade deals have nothing to do with free trade.

Perhaps Brad can provide a little more evidence that his team took the doctrines of free trade very seriously. Until he does, I'm afraid I can't award him the prize.

Next: Oliver Kamm

created 2006-06-14T12:43:30 #

Letters to the editor

Shorter Noam "hyperbolic generalizations to the point of absurdity" Chomsky: "Brad Delong doesn't take the doctrines of free trade seriously."

Shorter Brad "effective trade regulation is hard to do and inevitably polluted by politics" Delong: "I take the doctrines of free trade seriously."

Shorter Aaron "what am i, a mind reader?" Swartz: "Your inability to bend the world to you will shows me that you lack seriousness. No soup for you."

*Brad Delong quote comes from http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/06/free_trade.html

created by david mathers on 2006-07-31T10:30:28 #

Your response to DeLong is simply crazy.

Chomsky says, "These people don't take free trade seriously".

DeLong (one of these people) says, "Yes we do"

Then you take an agreement like NAFTA, put forward by "these people", which reduced the barriers to trade between the member countries, and say it doesn't really prove DeLongs point because Chomsky points out there are still some barriers left. From the NAFTA factsheet:

"Under NAFTA, all non-tariff measures affecting agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico were eliminated on Jan. 1, 1994. These barriers, including Mexico's import licensing system (which had been the largest single barrier to U.S. agricultural sales), were converted to either tariff-rate quotas or ordinary tariffs.

All agricultural tariffs between Mexico and the United States will be eliminated. Many were immediately eliminated and others were to be phased out over transition periods of 5, 10, or 15 years. The immediate tariff eliminations applied to a broad range of agricultural products. In fact, more than half the value of agricultural trade became duty free when the agreement went into effect. Tariff reductions between the United States and Canada had already been implemented under the CFTA."

It's quite frankly hilarious that you take Chomsky's word on how serious a group of people take something over their own words, when combined with the hard facts as above show that barriers to free trade were significantly reduced by actions they took. The volume of trade between all the members of NAFTA also rose significantly in a short time after these agreements - is that another example of increasing barriers (as Chomsky would have us believe) naturally affecting trade ? Obviously not.

created by None on 2006-09-14T17:40:17 #

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